Go Figure: Musings from the Mind of Rob Wilstein
It was just past two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon in mid-November, the sun not shining, the cool of the day a harbinger of winter. The wheels of the rented mid-size I’d picked up for a song in Boston crunched like dry bones over the dirt road leading to the old Field place. The main house looked desolate, most likely unused since summer. Maybe I should have turned around then, but something in my gut told me I’d better stick around. I’d paid for the week.
On the ride down from Boston to Wellfleet I’d been listening nonstop to classic radio, detective dramas from the 40’s, hard-boiled gumshoes and hard whiskey, mysterious blondes and double-crossing wise guys. Now I was on my own, facing a lonely week in a God-forsaken town on a mission. A mission to finish the latest draft of my novel, working title, Big Shot.
I pulled the key from its hiding place and entered the empty summer cottage with hesitation and a pocketful of questions. Had I remembered to bring my own linens? Would there be an espresso maker to my liking? Toilet paper? I cleared my head and made a thorough inspection of my new digs. A house high up on a desolate bluff overlooking steep dunes leading to the Atlantic. Not what it once was, the Atlantic, but still. Bare walls save for a hokey captain’s wheel mirror and a bulletin board with a takeout menu for the local pizzeria. In the middle of the large room sat a black-iron wood stove. I opened the glass-front door and found remnants of a fire. Wondering who it may have been that used it last, I decided then I wouldn’t be using the stove, because I didn’t know how and preferred not to burn the place down.
I unpacked my Trader Joe’s snacks and settled in to work, opening my laptop, reminding myself that there would be no Internet here. I was on my own in the Cape Cod wilderness. No Internet, no television, no landline. Lucky for me I had my IPad and IPhone along. The long couch and bare wood coffee table served as my workstation. The unadorned windows looked out on a deck as empty as the chamber of my .38, if I had one, surrounded by low scrub, beyond which lay the deserted beach.
That first day the work went without a hitch as I re-read the two hundred or so pages I’d banged out over the last fifteen months. The plan was a simple one. Make notes on the parts I’d already written, finish the denouement, re-read the whole thing again and again and again, editing and rewriting until it was perfect. Simple. What could go wrong?
The snow fell at first in fat, juicy flakes, storybook snow, angels and fairy snow, if you believe in those things, covering the scrub with light bulbs at the tips of branches, blanketing the wooden deck and the now folded lounge chairs on which I had roasted my skin on summer days. The wind knocked the strangely empty bird feeder against the sill in a rhythmic swing beat, keeping time with the moans and hisses of the baseboard heat. Any minute there’d be a rapping at the door and a brunette in a black trench coat would be in trouble. I kept writing and editing, revising and writing some more.
Sure enough, a knock at the door. I set down my handful of Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels and approached the door cautiously. The full glass door didn’t allow for caution, so I threw it open to find a sandy-haired, middle-aged woman in a grey cardigan sweater with a mop and bucket in her arms.
“The owner said the place was empty. Said I should clean up after the last tenant.”
He did, did he? Who was this woman, and was that really a mop? What’d she take me for, some kind of dupe? What was her angle, anyway?
“I’m sorry. I’m renting through Sunday. Must be some kind of mistake.”
I told her. She wasn’t getting in here with her ‘mop’ and chopping my head off and burning it in that wood stove I didn’t know how to use.
“No problem, I’ll come back,” she said.
No problem. You can bet there’s no problem, lady. But what if she was a spy? Sent to see if I was alone. Which I was. I would have double-locked the door had there been more than the useless little lock in the doorknob. The snow continued to fall and soon I’d be trapped, like those mountain lodges buried deep and no way out.
I kept writing.
The denouement got darker along with the day. What if the rest of her crew was on the way? I decided I’d better batten down the hatches. There were no hatches, no window coverings at all, flimsy doors all around. The place was as exposed as a two-bit whore in an Amsterdam street window.
I heated my DiGiorno pepperoni pizza and returned to my writing. The snow fell. The wind blew. The bird feeder knocked. The heat moaned. I wrote some more and then I closed my laptop, waited for the intruders to show up for a while before I went to bed.
One day down, six more to go.
Author’s note: The snow stopped, no one killed me, and I finished the draft.